A Warning: Why One Should Not Glean from Jennifer Kennedy Dean's Prayer Books!
On a recent Sunday morning a vivacious older lady stood in front of a congregation, of what can only be termed a solid gospel preaching, mission minded church, and announced to the women that all should sign up for its newest Bible study program that would begin shortly. Touting both Set Apart, and Living a Praying Life she stated that the author --Jennifer Kennedy Dean--was also part of the National Day of Prayer.
At my seat --I was writing down the information--for I knew my immediate assignment as a discerning Christian was, as Acts 17:11 instructs, to look into Dean to see if all she's taught and written stands up to scripture. In short, "Should one glean or be learning from this writer Jennifer Kennedy Dean?"
So that very afternoon I began my investigation. And it wasn't long into my research that I found "red flags flying!" So what was it that made me know that Dean, and her numerous books were something that I should not be buying into, nor following? Let me explain!
Dean's "The Praying Life Foundation" Web Page
I. Dean's All About "Listening Prayer" Article
Checking out Dean's web page: "The Praying Life Foundation"--her bio, blog, articles, store, and more-- soon gave me pause. For under Dean's store was a section titled "Free." Clicking onto that I found many Dean articles. Immediately, my eye caught the title: "Listening Prayer." Knowing that this was a meditative practice that uses a mantra or repetitive phrase to clear one's mind so one can "hear God's voice" as one sits in silence I read the five pages carefully.
http://www.prayinglife.org/free/ Scroll down to find article.
Did Dean support this unscriptural prayer method? Indeed, Dean did! For Dean began her article by saying, "Spoken prayer will not reach its potential unless it is grounded in listening prayer. In listening prayer spoken prayer is born." And Dean champions going into "the silence"* when she says of the Lord, "He wants us to know his secrets, but his secrets come wrapped in silence." (p.1)
* The Silence: "Absence of normal thought." (A Time of Departing: Glossary-p.205)
Under "Wordless Prayer" Dean writes, "All noise all the time. ... Yet, it is in silence and solitude that we learn to synchronize our hearts with His." Dean continues, "Richard Foster says, 'Contemplative
Prayer* immerses us into the silence of God. How desperately we in the modern world need this
wordless baptism.'" (Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home) Red flag again! For Dean admires Foster, and quoted from his book--a book filled with contemplative mysticism! (p.2)
* Contemplative Prayer is: "Going beyond thought by the use of repeated words or phrases."
(A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen: Glossary-p. 203)
II. Dean's "How to Do Listening Prayer Practices"
Jennifer Dean lists five "suggestions" as a "How To" primer to "wordless prayer." These practices include: "Picturing Prayer," "Conversation," "The Word," "A Focused Heart," and "Worship with Abandon."
In the section "Picturing Prayer" (This is not New Age "visualizing" insists Dean.) she introduces the reader to mystic panentheist* Quaker Thomas E. Kelley** and the phrase: "In the inner sanctuary of your own soul." (p.4)
* Panentheism is: "God is in all things. ... The assumption all is one, therefore all is deity."
(A Time of Departing: Glossary-p. 205)
** Notice Dean names "Thomas E. Kelley"; however, this middle initial and last name are spelled incorrectly as easily seen on Amazon.com where one can view the book: A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. (Raymond) Kelly with cover endorsement by Richard J. Foster. It is interesting to note also that the phrase she attributes to Kelly can be traced to "Meister Eckhart." For "The Light Within" (Chapter 1) of A Testament of Devotion reads, "Meister Eckhart"* wrote, "Deep within us all is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center,** a speaking voice, to which we may return."
https://www.amazon.com/Testament-Devotion-Thomas-R-Kelly/dp/0060643617 Click on "Look Inside."
* "A Christian Mystic of the Past" (1260-1327) (A Time of Departing: Mystics List-p.207)
** Higher Self, True Self, Divine Self ...: "Supposed God-self within each human being."
(D Is for Deception: The Language of the "New" Christianity by Kevin Reeves): ABC Word List p.10
In "A Focused Heart" Dean tells one how to achieve a meditative state--no different than any other Eastern meditative practice it must be noted! "... settle on a phrase* that calls your heart and mind back when other thoughts intrude," instructs Dean. Dean adds, "When you find your mind wandering, as you will in the beginning especially, don't waste time condemning yourself. Just speak the phrase that says a heart full and you'll soon see that it immediately centers your thoughts on Him." Then Dean goes even further! Jennifer Dean reveals her own phrase. She says, "My phrase is 'Only You.'" And some days, adds Dean, she repeats if over and over many times, while other days she may not use it at all. (p.5) However, Matthew 6:7 states, "When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do."
* A mantra is: "Word or words repeated either silently or out loud in order to induce an altered state of consciousness. A way to turn off thoughts and enter the 'silence'"
(D is for Deception: The Language of the "New" Christianity): Word List p.10
James Bean--Just Like Dean-- Writes Article Quoting Thomas Kelly
It is troubling when one finds a secular article "Contemplative Silence--The Art of Tapping Into Our Source of Inner Wisdom and Guidance" by a James Bean that begins with the very same Thomas Kelly Quaker mystic quote used by Jennifer Dean. (Site: Sant Mat Meditation and Spirituality/Surat Shabd Yoga: Meditation on Inner Light and Sound of God.) James Bean says, "... there is also an inner voice of the Silence we can tap into. Then who should Bean quote next -- why Meister Eckhart, the German Mystic quoted by Kelly! In addition to Kelly, Eckhart, Bean also cited The Sakhi Granth, Paramahansa Yogananda, Mother Teresa, and many more.
Bean relates, "The art of listening in the silence of meditation provides us with ... opportunities to see clearly without the usual day-to-day distractions, perceiving the events of our life from a higher vantage-point." Bean attests, "It also makes it possible for the authentic self to rise to the surface, introducing a new divine power or grace into this dimension of reality."
Dean's Conversations with the Most High: 365 Days in God's Presence
In 2014 Dean updated her 1996 Secret Place of the Most High renaming it Conversations with the Most High: 365 Days in God's Presence. In it Dean quotes from Eugene Peterson's compromised The Message "Bible"--with its occult phrase in the Lord's Prayer "as above so below!" and other New Age insertions. In its "Introduction" Dean inscribes, "It (book) grows out of a lifelong pursuit to hear the Eternal Word speak His eternal words in my present moment." (The term "present moment" reminds one of mindfulness meditation!)
In the intro Dean once again alludes to Thomas Kelly when she pens this statement: "Over the years I ran across certain authors and thinkers who seemed to have that same wonder for the invitation to the secret place. Thomas Kelley (Should be Kelly. See prior note.) first introduced me to the idea I could live in a state of prayer and from that idea came the phrase that has defined my ministry for over 40 years: 'Live a Praying Life.'" (Copyrighted by Dean.)
January 1 begins: "Child, Walk in newness, I have called...." Here, Dean contends she was not taking dictation. However, the way these devotionals are written are certainly reminiscent of Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling." Some also begin, "Father, ...." Usually, the devotionals have two parts: Child, Father, etc. plus a Bible verse, a Jennifer K. Dean quote, or a quote from some other famous pray-er.
Dean's He Restores My Soul: A Forty-Day Journey Toward Personal Renewal
In her 1999 book in "Section I-Beginnings" Dean also speaks of listening prayer using the same quote listed in her 2012 "Listening Prayer" article: " ... In listening prayer, spoken prayer is born." Dean also issues an invitation to "join me on a journey of the soul." (p.3) Dean follows this asking, "What is a retreat?" She answers that a retreat is: "to intentionally withdraw for a time ... with the aim of listening to God's now speaking voice." She continues that this is a time of "intentional planned solitude and silence." in which "...we focus on listening prayer. Learning how to be open to God's present voice ...." (pp. 4-5) The next page talks of "centering" and "centering prayer."
Once more Foster, Kelly, and others are quoted! On her back cover "listening prayer" is mentioned. And the problem with "listening prayer" is that the listener receives a subjective message. Forgotten is the scriptural warning from Proverbs 30:6 that reads: "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar."
https://www.christianbook.com/restores-forty-journey-toward-personal-renewal/jennifer-dean/9780805420272/pd/20274 Click on sample pages.
Dean's Praying Life Facebook Page Prominently Promotes JKD Quotes
Dean's Facebook Page gives one a window into Dean's world with its endless posts of various Jennifer Kennedy Dean quotes. Her latest book-- Live a Praying Life Without Fear-- also is heavily promoted with free signed book giveaways thrown in.
Live a Praying Life Without Fear, as in a number of other Dean works, uses Eugene Peterson's The Message "Bible." Its list of endorsees includes emergent type contemplatives such as Lucinda Secrest McDowell (author of Dwelling Places) who quotes St. Ignatius, Henri Nouwen, Ruth Haley Barton, and others; and Jane Rubietta (author of Resting Place) who touts Lectio Divina, Brennan Manning, St. John of the Cross and more.
https://www.amazon.com/Live-Praying-Life%C2%AE-Without-Fear/dp/1625915098 Click on
The bottom line on this Facebook page is --instead of scripture being lifted up endless Jennifer Kennedy Dean quotes are everywhere. In this "Selfie Age" with "Repeating Tweeters," authors, by no means just Dean, lift self up and soon it is their names, their quotes, and their teachings that are put on a pedestal for all to read while scripture takes a back seat! The Psalmist, however, was awed by--not his own words--, but with "thy word!" Psalm 119:161-162 says, "...but my heart standeth in awe of thy word. I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil."
The Lesson for Us All Is: "Study to Show Yourself Approved Unto God!"
In summary, each and every time a Bible study is announced do not surmise that just because the word Bible is in it, a church stalwart endorses it, a pastor allows it, a friend loves it, or a prominent writer teaches it that you --just like an ant rushing madly to obtain sweet bait-- should sign on. Before you do, prayerfully and carefully research the book, the course, and the author. See what sound research apologists have to say, and learn to discern whether what a particular author or book is touting sticks to scripture, or whether there's hidden "poison" therein.
Learn to spot "red flag" words, phrases, practices, and teachers who add or subtract from the Word. And if you see a contemplative thread in their teachings--spiritual formation, contemplative prayer, listening prayer, centering prayer, mantras, meditative phrases, mystics, experiences, men like Richard Foster, and so on-- run the other way!
It is up to each of us to become, as II Timothy 2:15 states, "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." We must forgo the work books containing contemplative teachings, such as those taught by Dean and a host of others, and return to the Word book!
Learn to Discern Granny Verses: II Peter 3:17,18
"Ye therefore beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ..."
For More Information:
*****5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer (2013) by Ray Yungen (Lighthouse
Trails Research) https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=10780 If you can not purchase any other booklet this one is a winner!
"National Day of Prayer Featured Author Promotes Contemplative" (May 15, 2007) by Lighthouse Trails Editors (Lighthouse Trails Research)* http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=3149
"General Baptist Ministries Going Toward Contemplative?" (July 11, 2008) by Lighthouse Trails Editors (Lighthouse Trails Research)* https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1617
*Articles on Jennifer Kennedy Dean
A Time of Departing (2006) by Ray Yungen (Lighthouse Trails Research) Especially read chapter two: "Yoga of the West" (explains contemplative prayer) and chapter four: "Evangelical Hybrids" ( all about Richard Foster and Brennan Manning). Also check out the "Glossary of Terms," and the "Christian Mystic List." http://www.lighthousetrails.com/home/684-a-time-of-departing.html
A Serious Look at Richard Foster's "School" of Contemplative Prayer (2015) by Ray Yungen
(Lighthouse Trails Research Booklet) http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17941
D Is for Deception: The Language of the "New" Christianity (2016) by Kevin Reeves and the Editors at Lighthouse Trails (Lighthouse Trails Research Booklet)
The Message "Bible": A Breach of Truth (2014) by John Lanagan (Lighthouse Trails Research Booklet) http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16449